Every time Ruth Lubic fusses over a healthy baby, the joy in her voice comes from eight long years of beating the odds. Washington, D.C.’s infant mortality rate is almost double the national average. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of infant deaths per 1,000 births in the United States is 6.8 – but in Washington, it’s 12.2.
Lubic and her team of midwives run a birthing clinic in one of the city’s poorest areas. After 800 babies in eight years, they have never lost a child in childbirth, and have cut the rate of premature births – the biggest risk factor for infant mortality – in half.
Ruth built her clinic in Washington, D.C., on purpose. She figured if her ideas worked there, if she could tackle infant mortality in Washington, she’d set an example everywhere. Her approach is simple. She believes low-income women, many on Medicaid, need the prenatal education that midwives provide – everything from posture, to nutrition, to how the baby grows.
What’s most remarkable is that Lubic still does it at 81-years-old. Lubic’s biggest fan is D.C. city councilman David Catania. He says because she keeps hundreds of babies out of prenatal care, she saves the city around $1 million a year. That’s why he supports her when Ruth hounds the city council for funding. “While I tease her a lot about being a pit bull with a smile, I look at her sometimes with complete envy about how you can have such a burning drive at 81,” Catania said. “And it’s a great inspiration.” Lubic says infant mortality is a national disgrace, but a disgrace that midwives can help solve. And this pit bull with a smile won’t let go of that idea until it sinks in nationwide.